And the FBI wants to
Look, J. Edgar, the whole
And the FBI wants to
Look, J. Edgar, the whole
Again, I hope to avoid the temptation to turn this blog into a string of links to other places, but this comment from
High? We Couldn't Get Much Higher: Late yesterday afternoon Attorney General Ashcroft alerted us to an alert that
our high alert has just been made higher. We are now more alert than we were before we were on high alert. We are now highly alerted to the fact that we are on high alert. Hopefully, someone will soon explain what we have been alerted to. In the meantime, Gov. George Pataki has said our patrolling National Guardsman can carry guns. This, sounds sound. And alert. Some feel being so highly alert makes them want to get high and perhaps a little less alert.
The final episode, which now seems prophetic, concerned the cast’s reaction to the news of the Pearl Harbor attack (mentioned at the end of the previous episode). Betty Roberts, the station’s head (and only) writer, felt that the regular schedule of comedies, dramas, and music would seem, well, trivial in light of current events. "I mean, war's no laughing matter," she told the station manager, Victor Comstock. So, she suspended them all in mid-plot and went to an all-news and analysis format.
Victor set her straight:
What do you think this country is fighting for, hm? Life. Liberty. And the right to do silly radio programs.
...The reason we are in this thing is so that men and women of every race and creed can come home after a hard day's work and take a beer out of the icebox and sit in their underwear listening to Rance Shiloh, US Marshall.
The day we lose Custard the Clown, Betty, we've lost the war.
This may be the most patriotic thing I’ve ever heard.
When I decided to attempt a weblog, I determined that I wasn't going to say anything unless I had something original to say. That's why I only update this thing every few days: Much of what I would have said has already
But every now and again I stumble onto something that I think you should see.
CNN offers to grant time to bin Laden, yet finds that there are some people who are so evil and misguided that they cannot be allowed a platform on CNN – for example, opponents of the global warming theory.
Here's an interesting ethical question. Say you're a celebrity, and you agree to do a benefit for the families of the victims of the terror attack. You go on television and ask your fellow Americans to donate money. And they respond. Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured in from the TV telethon and the concerts. You feel good that various charities are flush with donated cash partly generated by you. And of course you benefited from the public seeing you in an altruistic situation.
But then a logjam occurs. And the donated money does not get to the families very quickly. In fact, six weeks after the attack, less than 10 percent of the $1.4 billion pledged to help those grieving families has actually been distributed. Some families have received no donations at all. So what do you, the celebrity, do? What is your responsibility in this situation?
...Well, maybe you should go on television and ask some direct questions.
The World Wide Web reminds me of an old Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney musical. "I've got a PC!" "Great, I've got a modem!" "And Uncle AOL has a couple of megabytes of disk space to spare. Let's put on a show!"
I mean, think about this. For a few hundred dollars' worth of computer parts (and you don't even have to own the computer!) and a few dollars a month paid to a service provider, I can reach the world. I'm writing these words in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Where are you?
You downloaded these words from a file server. Where exactly that server is, I have no idea,
nor do I need to know, nor do you. You may be seeing them minutes or hours after I write them. All you have to know is the phrase dpm.blogspot.com, and they're all yours. I'm not Dan Rather or George W. Bush, that you should have such timely access to what I say. I'm just a person--no more, no less.
The point is, we exist (I, as I write this, and you, as you read) in a community that could not have existed when we were born. We are not particularly exceptional people, as people go: Yet we share a global forum in which exchanging thoughts with someone on the other side of the planet is no more difficult than ordering out for pizza. (Which, come to think of it, can also be done on the Web in some cities.)
Microsoft has a web site. So do I. Except for the fact that they have a ton of software available for downloading, it's not immediately apparent that they put far more money into their web presence than I put into mine.
That's democracy. There's no real difference between their site and mine. Mine is just as "real" as theirs is, whatever that means on the Web.
What we have here is a medium that can sweep across cultural and economic lines like no other medium before it. The average individual can't afford to own a television station, or a radio station, or a newspaper, or a magazine, or anything that can be described as a mass medium. (Feature films have been financed with personal credit cards, but only in unusual cases.) Yet here I am, gently tossing my thoughts into the ether, where they are paradoxically as close as my fingertip and as far away as Moscow, Tokyo, and Sydney.
Or Washington, D.C.
Certainly, anybody who has taken any traditional route to Power (political or financial) has to be intimidated by the Internet, the planet's first and largest functioning libertarian society. Certainly, white racists and black affirmative action activists are united in their distrust of a culture in which people really are judged by the content of their minds and not the color of their skins. And people (or organizations) with money are discovering that there is nothing about having money that makes one better able to create HTML code.
The value of a Web page is in the thoughts and ideas it expresses. Imagine that.
First, something that happened here in the Atlanta area: A couple of weeks ago, some pilot in a private plane thought it would be funny to buzz the Fayette county fair. The FAA got right to work, based on a partial registration number from the plane's tail and a rough description of the type of plane, and within 24 hours or so, had narrowed the suspect plane list down to about 3000 planes. Major Bruce Jordan of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department told them thanks, but local talk show host (and aircraft owner and aficionado)
Yeah, they got their man. An employee at a local flight school.
Second, remember those parts from the helicopter the Taliban are so proudly claiming to have shot down (but refusing to show anyone the rest of the wreckage).
Had CNN had the wit to do the same research, they might have been able to ask the Taliban representatives some embarrassing questions. But then, they could always have asked the Army if they were missing a helicopter, and they didn't do that either.
(Or maybe they did, and maybe the Army knows whose side CNN is on. But that isn't really my point here.)
Do employees of CNN and the FAA not have access to the internet? Or are they forbidden to use it, as in so many workplaces?
Or are they too busy playing
The internet is an intensely powerful tool, and I'm glad it's in
But I will explore one question that comes to mind: How wary should we be?
In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, there remain unknown numbers of cells still active in this country. Apparently there are also some caches of low-grade anthrax, not deadly enough for a bold stroke, but enough to annoy, to distract, to foment fear and distrust.
My first reaction was that if this is an attack, it's an inept one. Now I'm not so sure. With only a handful of well-placed envelopes, someone has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of high alert. With one, count 'em, one fatality, and a handful of cases responding well to antibiotics, our adversary has caused us to stop and question every spill of talcum powder and coffee creamer on the east coast.
Did they know that would happen? Are we being nibbled to death by baby ducks? Are they laughing at us while they ready the real other shoe?
I'm inclined to think I'm giving them too much credit. They're not that clever. If the public statements from the Taliban and bin Laden are any indication, they really don't understand us well enough to have planned that kind of campaign.
But in the back of my head there is a nagging shadow of a doubt.
There's another component to the question with which I began this comment, one that Ms Noonan addresses more directly.
Before 9-11, if you met someone strolling down your street that you didn't know, it meant nothing. "Tourist", you might say, and move on. Now you wonder. Especially if the "tourist" is differently-complected than yourself, most especially if he "looks Middle-Eastern", you wonder.
This is "profiling", and that word was in real danger of becoming the 21st century buzzword for "racism" -- until now.
Now, I think, we understand (and if we don't, we had better come to understand it pronto) that profiling is not necessarily a bad thing. It's standard procedure for any crime investigator: You build a profile of the perpetrator, so you can go where he's likely to be and see if you see him. You have to start somewhere, duh.
Well, it's true that I am white. And I'm male, which (say some) is another strike against me. And I'm middle-aged. (Yer out!) I'm even Southern. And straight. (Five for five! Bingo!)
The irony of anyone deducing from this information that I am incapable of understanding what it's like to be "profiled" -- well, it's rude to laugh, but I can't help it.
I'm profiled every darned day. And it is Incorrect for me to resist being profiled. But that's okay, because I know I'm not guilty of anything. It's contingent upon me to prove, by my words and by my actions, that I don't fit the profile. That other people who resemble me in some way are not me, and do not speak for me.
Be combative, and you get combat. Be courteous, and you get courtesy. Usually.
A few months later, the Japanese attacked a remote American naval base in Hawaii – and the world changed.
A few years later, the United States became the first, and so far only, country to use an atomic weapon in war. And the conversations that Heinlein began in this story continue to this day.
The day before our scheduled studio session, three hijacked commercial airliners slammed into three heavily populated buildings in New York and Washington – and the world changed again.
We considered canceling our voice session, which suddenly seemed so unimportant – but we would never have a better chance to capture the confusion, shock, grief, and grim determination of the day. Events had outrun us, but the story remained as fresh as tomorrow’s headlines. It seemed to demand that we tell it, again.
So we stood in the studio, our characters debating the practicality of suspending all commercial air travel – while, above us, the late summer sky was empty.
Where did we ever get the idea that science fiction is escapist literature?
This production is dedicated to the memory of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth hijacked airliner, who voted that whatever the personal cost, that flight would not become an instrument of terror. Instead, it has become a symbol of the indomitable American spirit.
You don’t get to choose how to die. You can only choose how to live. Those passengers chose life for additional hundreds, possibly thousands, of people they would never know. There can be no greater gift.
I think – I know! – Mr Heinlein would agree.
I wish you well, and I hope your loved ones are all accounted for.